Evaluating Higher Education

Even after setting up new IITs, IIMs, and Central Universities, the higher education system in India has not come out of crises. The low quality institutions offset the advantages of the premier institutions when it comes to the overall scenario of higher education in the country. It is as if anyone can establish a university with nothing to do with essential prerequisites, ethics and academic standards. When a university/college does not have checks and balances, the collapse of education is inevitable. The book titled ‘The Idea of Academic Audit’ jointly compiled  by Dr. Nazir  Ahmad Gilkar and Dr. Aasif Shah is an attempt to invite the attention of the academic governance to overcome academic embarrassments. The book is divided into four chapters and spread over 3 plus 144 pages and index at the end. The first chapter Academic Planning Audit discusses about the curriculum planning and development, course structure, applied education, academic best practices, accreditation process, transparency and accountability.

The second chapter Academic Transaction Audit emphasizes about holistic and value based education, learner centric pedagogy, value creation, innovation, content, communication, extension education and academic subsidy. Similarly, the third chapter Academic Evaluation Audit deliberates upon evaluation process audit, strategic examination reforms, structural reforms in the LOCF, open and home books examinations and other academic operations. The final chapter highlights the Academic Governance Audit, academic vision, policies and leadership, intellectual capital and institutional values. The book has the potential to push up the institutions for more  transparency, accountability and efficiency in an academic pursuit.

As the education has gone global, there is an urgent need to ensure high quality education to meet the aspirational requirements of the youth. Academic audit is a promising value added activity that helps institutions to survive and succeed. It is a process of evaluating the academic practices and procedures against set policies and standard parameters. It provides an opportunity to the institution to identify it’s strengths and weaknesses to ensure academic excellence and beyond. The scope of academic audit is wide. It encompasses wide range of activities to be audited like admission processes, academic schedule, teaching, examinations, results, student support and remedial coaching, feedback, seminars, conferences, e-learning modules including evaluation, academic governance, teaching and research infrastructure and so on.

The beauty of academic audit is that it helps the institution to maintain the goodwill and promote trust among various stakeholders including the society at large. Besides, it encourages various academic disciplines to adapt to change in a changing landscape of higher education. On the governance front, it ensures the optimal utilisation of resources available in the institution. Specifically, it attempts to answer the questions like how teachers are performing in the institution? Which academic unit/department has got the highest output in relation to it’s inputs? Is there any deviation between the targets and the achievements? Is there any need to redesign the existing curriculum? Does our institutions have open learning environment? How educational policy of the institution prepare students for the competitive world?  Why students are compelled to abandon their academic programs halfway? How to build a positive relationship with students?

Ever wondered why most of the students do not take colleges seriously? And those who go to the college attend it just to cover a portion of the syllabus. The students may be knowledgeable but not well educated with the right skills as per the requirements in demand. This may be one of the reasons why we had witnessed  six lac applicants including Masters and PhDs in the SSB recruitment for class forth posts. The gap between education and employability is thus radically increasing. A question arises that has academy failed to motivate students to work smart?

As the New Education Policy 2020 is flexible and student centric, the higher education institutions are bound to deliver the best academic services to be able to survive in an academic market. The forthcoming book can help them to pave the way for self assessment, quality enhancement, proper governance and effective leadership. It will prepare institutions for the effective delivery of student services. Besides, it will ensure the teacher accountability and students development for key decisions. Unlike monitoring practices, performance budgeting and RTI Act as control mechanisms in place, the academic audit is comprehensive in nature and gains added significance when more and more academic institutions enjoy academic autonomy. It is pertinent to mention here that accreditation is done once in five years where as the academic audit is a continuous process.

The higher education institutions must launch a capsule  program to develop select faculty to perform as certified academic auditors with due regard to academic audit manual. The study of the book provides an opportunity to institutions for self evaluation to grow effectively and efficiently to meet the challenges of globalisation.

Author is Assistant Professor in Department of Commerce, GDC Bemina Cluster University Srinagar.